From my personal experience of pregnancy loss, I’ve learned a great deal about how to support women going through a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, both close by and from far away. Here are some ideas:
1. Ask how she is doing today.
If you’re around others or it’s not a good time of day, maybe ask in private, or ask if they’d like to carve out a better time for them to talk about it.
It’s not necessary to have gone through the experience yourself to be supportive of them. Maybe even say: “I’ve never gone through this, but I care about you and am here for you to listen about your experience.”
Leave room for pause: presence is powerful. Read their journals. Share their burden with your time and attention. It might mean all the difference to them, especially if they are feeling far from God and His love. You can be His love to them that day.
2. Ask how can you can help, but be specific.
“Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you” is a wonderful sentiment, but someone going through trauma and loss needs to be given choices like a toddler. Their brain is fried. Remember how I said “shock makes your brain go numb”?
For a local friend, try this instead: “Which night can I bring you dinner: Wednesday or Thursday?” “I would love to have your girls over. Does right now work from 12-4 or tomorrow morning from 8-12?”
Handing them a frozen meal as they come to pick up their kids is a good way to kill 2 birds with one stone! A frozen meal overseas is the equivalence of a restaurant gift card: use it whenever it’s convenient.
If your friend is far away, you could say: “When you are back in the States, our family wants to provide a special get away for you and your family to look forward to. May we do that for you? If so, does the 3rd week of the January work for you?”
The griever doesn’t want to put anyone out. And the giver need not extend beyond what they are able to do. So come up with a plan and offer it to her. It’s a win/win.
3. Check in regularly.
Texts or calls don’t have to be made everyday. Initially, everyday texts may be important. Even if the griever doesn’t get back to you, she sees your call or email and is reminded that she’s not alone. She sees that she’s not forgotten. She sees that her baby is not forgotten.
Let her lead. If she’s fine, great, be fine together! Laugh, eat ice cream, do something enjoyable. But if she’s not doing well that day, let her not be ok. Let her be messy and wrong and raw.
But, do remind her of truth afterwards: the truth of God’s love, the truth of your faithful friendship, the truth that she’s doing the best she can and that she’s not alone.
Some people just need to verbally process and figure out how they feel as they talk. So mourn with those who mourn. And, remember, you’re not supposed to cry more than her! But if you do, she’ll love you for your tears for her.
4. Remember this is a long journey, so stay committed to her.
Losing an unborn baby feels like an invisible loss. Most people didn’t even know he or she existed since they were never born (or let’s face it: announced on Facebook). But the mom and family know. The mom made plans in her mind and already envisioned a nursery. The dad pictured being pummeled by 3 girls in fairy dresses or throwing ball with his first son. They miss what they had (growing pregnant tummy) and what they could have had (a baby in their arms and a new sibling for their children).
So this is a journey that doesn’t just take place when she passes the baby or the bleeding stops. Grief will creep up around the corner when she least expects it. Even if she told you last week that she is doing better, ask her next week and next month again.
Surprise triggers may be her 3-year-old randomly asking “Mommy, why did the baby die?” She may start unexpectedly bleeding again within those first 6 weeks, and it will bring back the trauma and grief of the miscarriage that happened “a while ago,” and tears come up when she thought she was “done.”
She’ll see a friend or an announcement on social media that will remind her that she isn’t making that same announcement as she had anticipated. She may open her calendar for one reason, but then be choked up with grief when she sees that this was the week she would have gone for the ultrasound that would have revealed boy or girl.
I know that I don’t speak for all women. In fact, you may have gone through a miscarriage and disagree with some of these points. That’s fine. It’s common to not want to talk about it. For some, miscarriage is a very private matter and sharing about it will bring up the trauma all over again. You may not want to be bombarded with the condolences and/or open yourself up to people who may not take care of your raw feelings very well.
5. Avoid silence and/or unhelpful statements.
In this culture already, I’ve been told “Oh, you’ll be ok. You’ll have 10 more babies!” My heart shut down right there. It’s a sweet sentiment, but it doesn’t acknowledge my current loss, nor does the thought of 10 more babies comfort my recent pain. People hold back from sharing their pain because of dismissive comments like that.
Not saying anything isn’t the best either. So learn from this and be sensitive. Listen. For me, I needed to talk things out and be heard and cared for well. I share my experience here, because I want to help women going through this kind of loss and also help their loved ones know how to best support them.
6. Here’s the best piece of comforting advice I’ve received so far.
Someone told me, “You’ll NEVER stop missing your baby. You’ll NEVER stop wanting to meet him or her.” Sometimes you will feel the deep longing greatly and other times it will be small. But you’ll never stop. That felt so reassuring. Because there are days that I’m happy. And then I feel a little guilty that I forgot about my sadness. I don’t ever want to forget his or her memory. That’s my baby. Forever. And it feels good to know that I won’t ever forget him or her. And one day, I’ll meet this precious life. And when I do, all of my sadness will be wiped away.
One day, all of my why’s will ultimately turned into wow’s as I once and for all meet my Creator. Questioning His plan will be the farthest thing from my mind. But for now, I’m reminded of His love and sovereignty through His creation, my loving family and friends, and the hope that He is producing in me through my suffering.
“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our heart through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5 NIV)
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17 NIV)
Nikki Simpson is a certified nurse-midwife and family nurse practitioner from south Florida who serves with her missionary pilot/aircraft mechanic husband Steve and 2 young daughters with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). They spent a year in Portugal for language school before serving with MAF in Mozambique for the last 3 years. Their passion and vision for medical missions has led them to a new assignment in the mountainous country of Lesotho (making the airplane a vital service for the clinics in the mountains to transfer patients to the city hospital). Once they settle in as a family in a new home, Nikki plans to get her local nursing license and find opportunities in the community to use her skills to serve others. Nikki enjoys running, spending quality time with her family, and drinking a warm cup of tea in the coolness of the morning. Read more about their adventures at www.thesimpsonscoop.